[B-Greek] EKBALLEI: simple word in strange context (Mk 1:12)?

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Fri Feb 21 02:13:12 EST 2003


[Carl:]
> Having begun to work on a short commentary on Mark's gospel I'm noticing
> "obvious" things I've never paid any attention to before. As a first
> instance, Mark's very brief temptation narrative 1:12-13 begins with the
> sentence (1:12): KAI EUQUS TO PNEUMA AUTON EKBALLEI EIS THN ERHMON. The
> expression seems to me to contrast sharply with Matthew's TOTE hO IHSOUS
> ANHCQH EIS THN ERHMON hUPO TOU PNEUMATOS Mt 4:1) and Luke's IHSOUS DE
> PLHRHS PNEUMATOS hAGIOU hUPESTREYEN APO TOU IORDANOU KAI HGETO EN TWi
> PNEUMATI EN THi ERHMWi (Lk 4:1).
>
> My question is not a source-critical one (I make no assumption of Marcan
> priority) here but strictly a question of perspective implied by
> the choice
> of a verb. While Matthew and Luke both use passive forms of AGW or the
> compound ANAGW to indicate a spiritual "guidance" Jesus "into"
> (Mt) or "in"
> (Lk) the wilderness, Mark's Spirit seems to "jolt" Jesus suddenly into the
> wilderness from the Jordan where he has just been baptized. EKBALLW is a
> verb which elsewhere in Mark is used predominantly of exorcism of demons,
> otherwise of exorcism of Satan (3:23), of expulsion (of everybody in the
> house of the chief of the synagogue, 5:40 and of moneychangers from the
> temple, 11:15), of the eye that SKANDALIZEI (9:47), and of the murdered
> beloved son of the owner of the vineyard (12:8). EKBALLEI in Mk 1:12 is
> active and seems violent; it would appear that Jesus is being represented
> here almost as a victim, as the passive object of a violent thrusting that
> is external to himself.

No, not violent, but he is depicted as being under an authoritative command,
not passive, but obedient.

> BDAG offers: "2. to cause to go or remove from a position (without force),
> send out/away, release, bring out" but under 1 "1. force to leave, drive
> out, expel " and says "Mk 1:12 is perh. to be understood in this
> sense, cp.
> Gen 3:24" The comparison of the expulsion of Adam & Eve from the garden is
> interesting, but there is evidently no clear consensus on the
> usage of this verb here.

The comparison to Gen 3:24 is misleading. I do not have BDAG, but at this
point the older BAGD appears to be "softer" than the newer version.
BAGD offers: "2. without the connotation of force: send out (PRyl. 80, 1 [I
ad], 1 Macc 12:27) workers Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2 (cf. PMich. 618, 15f [II ad]);
send away Js 2:25; release Ac 16:37; lead out (...Theophanes, Chron. 388, 28
de Boor) Mk 1:12 (but see 1 above); bring out of sheep J 10:4 (cf. Hs 6, 2,
6; Longus 3, 33, 2 ...)"

Instead of Gen 3:24 which is irrelevant, there are clear and relevant
parallels to the use of EKBALLEIN in Exodus. The trial period of 40 days
Jesus had to spend in the wilderness are parallel in many ways to the trial
period of 40 years the Israelites had to spend in the wilderness. Both were
faced with lack of food and water and the question about what to do then.
Trust in God in a difficult setting, give in to various temptations or give
up and return to "Egypt".

The following uses of EKBALLW in Exodus I find instructive, and it may be
that Mark intended a reference to them.

Exod 6:1 (NRSV): Then the LORD said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will
do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go (LXX:
EXAPOSTELEI); by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land." (LXX:
KAI EN BRACIONI hUYHLWi *EKBALEI* AUTOUS)

Exod 11:1: The LORD said to Moses, "I will bring one more plague upon
Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed,
when he lets you go, he will drive you away.
LXX: KAI META TAUTA EXAPOSTELEI hUMAS ENTEUQEN, hOTAN DE EXAPOSTELLHi hUMAS
SUN PANTI, *EKBALEI* hUMAS EKBOLHi.

Exod 12:33: The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from
the land.
LXX: KAI KATEBIAZONTO hOI AIGUPTIOI TON LAON SPOUDHi *EKBALEIN* AUTOUS EN
THS GHS

Exod 12:39: They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought
out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and
could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
LXX: *EXEBALON* GAR AUTOUS hOI AIGUPTIOI

These references say that it was in a sense God who drove the Israelites out
of Egypt, although he used Pharaoh as his instrument. It is likely that some
of the people did not want to go into an uncertain future.
I can imagine that there would be one (human) part of Jesus which did not
want to go into the wilderness to be tried and tested by the Devil, but
another (divine) part which knew that this was what he had to do.
When Matthew and Luke says that the Spirit led Jesus out, I still think that
implies an order or a command, not just a suggestion. Mark depicts more
clearly that this is indeed a command from God through the Holy Spirit. I
don't see a sharp contrast between Mark's "driving" and the "leading" of the
others. In fact, they complement one another nicely to show that there was a
command behind the "leading".

Iver Larsen






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